Sylvia Coke of 4 Carlyle Square, Chelsea, attended the cocktail party with a “very great friend” who she would not name. Like the majority of the guests on the 30th May she had been invited at an earlier cocktail party (May 26th) by Terence Skeffington Smyth. Again, like most of the people at William Mews on the monday evening she knew Skeffington Smyth much better than either Elvira or Michael. She was younger than most of the guests (21) and seems to have had a good time.
“I went to Mrs. Barney’s party at 21 Williams Mews at about 7pm on the 30th May. I should think there were about 25 to 30 persons present. We were given cocktails to drink and there was sherry for those who wanted it, The gramophone was playing and we danced to it. It was a very gay party and everybody, including Mrs,Barney and Mr.Scott Stephen, seemed to be enjoying themselves immensely.”
After the party she dined with Brian Howard at Brice’s in Wardour Street and then went to Mulberry Walk to Ruth Baldwin’s gathering. She then went with her unnamed friend to her house and drank some more, leaving about 3.45 to go home.
Sylvia Coke rates a special mention in Angela Fox’s memoirs.Fox (as Angela Worthington) would have been about 18 at the time but could possibly be the close friend. As could the actress Barbara Waring, then appearing in “Cavalcade” but best remembered today for “A Canterbury Tale” . Waring however ended up at Arthur Jeffress’ party so it is probably not her. Worthington,Coke and Waring were all aspiring actresses at the time.Angela Fox is the mother of James and Edward Fox.
Of Sylvia Coke she writes “A particular friend of mine was Sylvia Coke, a pretty,plump girl, the first of my friends my mother referred to as”fast””
She also writes of being taken to parties in Chelsea where cocaine was openly handed round. Her escorts on those occasions were Ewart Garland and John Heygate. Heygate is the man whose affair with Evelyn Waugh’s first wife ended that marriage and was therefore the inspiration for “A Handful of Dust” and one of the reasons that “Vile Bodies” takes a rather a dark turn towards the end of the novel.
Coke, Waring and Worthington had all been at RADA together. Elvira Barney had briefly pursued an acting career. Two other of the Mews cocktail party attendees were on the stage – Denys Skeffington Smyth and Irene MacBryan.
Sylvia Katherine Coke was born in 1910 to the Hon. Reginald Grey Coke and his third wife, the Russian-born Galia Hambourg. She married George Basi Stafford in 1936 and Percival Wren in 1947. Wren was the son of P.C. Wren of “Beau Geste” fame. She died in St.Albans in 1969.